BY NANCY J. COHEN
I started my career writing futuristic romance, a blend of romance and science fiction. After four books in this genre, I switched to mysteries. Why? My romances already had a mystery in the story and I enjoyed plotting them so much that I decided to try a straight mystery series. Marla Shore, my protagonist, is a salon owner and talented stylist who cares about her customers. A hairdresser has to be a good listener, so she’s a natural for a sleuth. She knows many people around town, and clients confide in her. With people coming and going all day and gossip flying, the beauty salon is a great background setting for my Bad Hair Day series. Plus it’s been fun to research.
Types of research is one of the ways the genres differ. For my mysteries, the research is grounded in reality. I include issues of concern to Floridians and other topics that are new and interesting so I can learn something from each story as well as my readers. I’ve done a lot of on-site research and personal interviews with experts.
Focus is another way stories differ between the genres. Romance novels celebrate the emotional commitment between a man and a woman, and how they attain that commitment is the substance of the story. This reflects on gender roles in our society and basic intrinsic values of family and relationships. Mysteries, on the other hand, reflect the morals of our society with justice as the ultimate goal. Science fiction stories involve galactic-wide catastrophes or futuristic scenarios wherein our heroes must save the universe or world from disaster.
Setting, no matter the genre, involves world building, and that’s going to depend on your time frame as well as your category. Historical accuracy is important if you’re in a historical setting. Contemporary society requires meticulous research as well. For a futuristic, you can make up your own world or base it on one of our own Earth cultures. My latest sci fi romance, SILVER SERENADE, starts out on a desert planet and from there the action moves to a space station, Earth in the future, and three alien worlds where strange and exciting things happen to my heroes. I love writing these adventures because there aren’t any limits to my imagination, whereas the modern mysteries have constraints.
Genre Conventions are important to follow if you don’t want to disappoint fans. Romances conclude with an HEA (Happy Ever After) ending. Mysteries solve a crime and bring a criminal to justice. Readers of whodunits expect a murder to take place, wherein the puzzle is the thing, as opposed to the non-stop action of a thriller or the terror of suspense. By reading a variety of books in your chosen genres, you’ll understand these conventions.
Language also varies according to the genre. Romance readers expect a certain amount of sensuous description regarding the main characters’ physical traits. Put this in a mystery, and your reader will toss the book aside. Sci Fi/Fantasy has a language all its own, too. You can make up a word for your otherworldly novels but not for your modern day stories.
Generally, writers gravitate toward the genres they love to read. If you have enough time and aren’t crushed for deadlines, it can be fun to experiment. Writing in two genres keeps you fresh. Marketing to two different audiences, however, is a whole other topic. That requires a targeted approach to find the bloggers and readers for a particular genre, and this can be incredibly time consuming. How do you design your website if you write two entirely different types of series? How do you order print promo materials? Do you share space for your various genres or keep them separate?
To Purchase Silver Serenade: http://bit.ly/cKrjWj